Apple a Little Less Green this Year

by Matt Klassen on November 20, 2012

It looks like Apple is a little less green this year, at least according to a report released by Greenpeace this month. The Cupertino Tech giant saw its eco-stock drop slightly, falling from fourth to sixth in the environmental watchdog agency’s 18th annual “Guide to Greener Electronics.”

With a score of 4.5 out of a possible 10 (down from 4.6 last year), Apple was hit hard on its sustainability efforts, criticized in part for its lack of a ‘robust take-back’ program in certain key markets like India. For those who have followed Apple’s environmental track record of late, it might come as a surprise to read that the company scored well on its device recycling efforts, particularly given its controversial withdrawal (and subsequent readmission) to the EPEAT environmental standards program this past summer.

While a score of 4.5 may not seem impressive, for the tech industry it’s actually not that bad, particularly given that perennial green leaders like HP, Nokia, and Acer only scored between 5.7 and 5.1. But the more important question in my mind about Greenpeace’s annual findings is, does Apple even care?

Over the years Apple and Greenpeace have had one of those rocky tumultuous love/hate relationships we all know so well. It’s clear that on some level at least Apple cares about what Greenpeace thinks about its cadre of technologically advanced products, given the fact that previous spats between the two entities back in the Steve Jobs era led to the Cupertino Company establishing its own in-house eco-analysis tool that it posts on its website, but Apple would never admit it.

In fact, having followed Apple’s dealings with environmental agencies this past year, its become apparent to me that Apple doesn’t care about the environment per se, but only cares about being green because environmental awareness is a helpful marketing tool.

To that end, one needs to look no further than the fact that despite Greenpeace’s high marks for recycling, its been widely reported that Apple’s products are becoming less recyclable as the years go by, with more advanced display technology, for instance, requiring a device assembly process that is almost impossible to undo. Did Apple actually care about the environment; I would expect to see this trending in the opposite direction.

That said, despite Apple’s environmental rebuffs of late, the reality is that in this current tech market Apple remains a leader in green technology, its lower score this year a result, in large part, of the generally opaque nature of its reporting.

“Though one of the high scorers in this edition, Apple misses out on points for lack of transparency on GHG emission reporting, clean energy advocacy, further information on its management of toxic chemicals, and details on post-consumer recycled plastic use,” Greenpeace said today in its summary.

In the end, I’m sure Apple has already dismissed this report out of hand; quick to assure its customers that it exceeds environmental standards in a number of key areas, noticeably reticent about the areas where it clearly falls short.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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